CRAWFORDSVILLE — Wabash College has a long and storied football legacy, even having defeated Notre Dame — granted it was in 1905 — and part of that legacy will be a pair of brothers from Plymouth.
Austin Hodges, now a senior for the Little Giants, and younger brother sophomore Houston Hodges have spent the past two seasons anchoring the Wabash secondary as starting cornerbacks. It was a twosome that almost never happened.
“It’s kind of amazing how things come full circle,” said Austin. “I was ready to come home after the first month. I hated it. When you first go to college and you’re playing football and adjusting to all that, it just really wears you down. I stayed with it and I love this place, it’s been the greatest experience I’ve ever had. I’m really glad I stayed.”
It was a bit of wisdom he was able to share with his younger brother.
“I know when (Houston) got here he went through the same thing,” said Austin. “I took him aside and just let him know that I understood exactly what he was going through, and if he’d just stick with it he wasn’t going to feel that way anymore.”
“Obviously I think things were a lot easier for me because (Austin) was around,” said Houston. “I just wasn’t prepared for it. Everything came so easily in high school, and it just wasn’t that way anymore. The academics here were a lot harder than I thought they’d be, football was harder than it was in high school. It helped a lot to know he struggled the same way, and it gave me a lot better perspective.”
Success also has a way of working things out. Austin made the travel squad that first year at Wabash — an accomplishment for a freshman in any football program — playing in five games as a running back. He became starting corner in his second season and is currently a senior co-captain. Houston locked down a starting slot in his freshman year and also had an outstanding season on the basketball court for Wabash.
“With the academic pressure and everything I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t question why I wanted to play basketball,” admitted Houston. “I just really love the game, it’s my first love and when I knew it was possible to play, not playing wasn’t even an option.”
Both admit that the brotherly “sixth sense” helps them at game time.
“There are just times when we look at each other, and I know exactly what he’s going to do,” said Austin. “It helps you in coverage when you know what the guy down the line is going to do and you trust him to do it. It helps both of us.”
“The coaches give us a little room to work out coverages because they know that,” said Houston. “It makes a huge difference when you have confidence in that guy to cover your back. The only bad part is if they score on a pass play it was probably one of us that screwed up.”
Even though they have a brotherly instinct, it was the coaches that had a lot to learn about the Hodges boys.
“I admit when he first got here there was a little bit of the ‘I can’t let my little brother show me up’ kind of thing,” said Austin. “I mean I wasn’t going to let this little freshman kid show me up. That didn’t take long to get over. It’s kind of funny to me that when he first got here people kind of treated us like we were the same person, but really the two of us couldn’t be more different. They (the coaching staff) had to figure that out.”
This will be the last season for the pair to play together on the football field — barring both being drafted into the NFL?
“That would be great, wouldn’t it?” laughed Houston. “I may be sticking my neck out, but I don’t think either one of us are quite that good.”
“It’s going to be a big adjustment; I’m so used to being around him (Austin),” said Houston. “I think it’s going to be an adjustment for the whole team — his energy in practice — he’s always the one out there talking and singing and moving all the time. The whole team is going to miss him.”
“I don’t know that I love the game of football as much as I love the way it brings us all together,” said Austin. “The things you remember are the Saturday nights after games, the locker room stuff, all the great teammates you’ve had and how close you’ve gotten. I’m going to miss all that.”
Both Austin and Houston are Economics majors at Wabash, and both hope to start a career in sales on graduation. Perhaps the brothers should pursue a partnership in business?
“I don’t know,” said Houston with a laugh. “I think we might have a lot of differences in how the business should be run.”
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